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Chicago's theater community comes together to fight racism, other bias
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times
2017-09-25

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The Chicago theater community came together to fight racism in a special event co-produced by Black Ensemble Theater and Steppenwolf Theatre Company Sept. 25.

This special one-night event, Chicago's Theater Community Coming Together to Fight the Ism's "Highlighting Racism," was hosted at Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street.

The event confronted racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other biases people experience on a daily basis. There were performances from Teatro Vista, About Face Theatre, a-squared Theatre, Black Ensemble Theater, Her Story Theatre and Firebrand Theatre. Featured speakers were Tyronne Stoudemire (vice president global diversity and inclusion, Hyatt Corporation ) and Angelique Power ( president, The Field Foundation and co-founder of Enrich ). The evening was motivated by recent discussion within the Chicago theater community regarding racism, including among theater critics.

"This is a necessary evening of education, understanding and coming together," said Black Ensemble Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor. "We must understand the systemic process of racism and oppression—what is it and how can we remove it from our community? This is a way to bring us together so that we can begin the healing process that is so necessary in a racist and oppressive society."

Taylor added in a prepared statement: "This is an event to enlighten, to inform and to inspire the theater community artists, administrators and critics to work together. Racism is a very, very difficult subject. Many don't even really understand it—however it is a subconscious and conscious reality that we all live every day of our lives. Let me assure you that this is not an event that will attack anyone or subject any one individual. It is not about Black critics or white critics—it is about the responsibility that we all have to recognize our part in eradicating all forms of oppression and bigotry within our community."

David Schmitz, executive director of Steppenwolf Theatre, in his prepared statement, said: "Jackie Taylor and Black Ensemble Theater have been leading this crucial work since the organization's founding 41 years ago! We join Jackie's call for an ongoing, community-wide dialogue about racism in our field and an experience-sharing process for artists, administrators and critics. Steppenwolf leadership is eager to participate in this dialogue, and will offer whatever resources we can to aide and further the discussion."

The evening provided a great opportunity have a "taste" of Chicago's diverse theater community, and it would be great to continue this tradition and expand it to an even wider audience.


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